Move over Hygge, it appears 2017 is the “year of slow living”. No-one really seems sure where this movement started. Perhaps it was inspired by the Slow Food Movement, or maybe it’s just a response to the fact that “life moves pretty fast” these days, and to paraphrase Ferris Bueller, if you don’t stop and look around once in a while you might miss it. I’ve been following (and occasionally using) the #slowliving hashtag on Instagram for a couple of years. Here you’ll find hundreds of misty, slight griege* pictures of tea in hand thrown mugs, resting on scrubbed pine tables, crumpled bed linen and carefully composed flat lays (items laid on tables, photographed from above). But, there’s more to slow living than composing a beautiful photo and scripting the perfect caption. The trouble is, my life is messy, colourful and random, so my photos stand out like a sore thumb in the hashtag feed. My real life is not Instagram friendly!
I like to think of my life as a journey, not a destination. I derive pleasure form the “doing” and the “making” of life, not just life itself. I relish the process of cooking meals from scratch, hand stitching my clothes and growing food for the table. Making time for coffee with friends, watching the goldfinches squabble over the bird feeder or just enjoying a hug from Mr T (always time for that) when I take him a mug of tea is important to me. I try to find joy in the mundane; whether it’s filling the log basket, sorting the recycling or wrangling the laundry. I think (and you might disagree, that’s ok), that if we’re constantly wishing we were doing something else, we’re in danger of missing out on the simple pleasure of life itself. If I didn’t wander around my garden every day to forage twigs for kindling I would miss the first snowdrops appearing at the bottom of the garden. I wouldn’t notice the bird nest in the clematis, which is only visible now the leaves have all dropped off. If I didn’t change the bed sheets every week I wouldn’t get to relish snuggling into freshly laundered cotton (I have thing for crisp, white linen and feather pillows). I’m interested to know how others live life in the slow lane, which is why I follow the hashtag. I tried to think about what makes my life a slow life and over the next few weeks I’ll share my own art of slow living. To kick off – here’s the one I struggle with most – balancing my online life with “real” life.
Mastering the art of tech life balance
I’m not talking about a digital detox (ugh what a horrible expression that is), instead learning to balance my life online with real world experiences. We don’t need to be constantly checking email, counting “retweets” on Twitter or scrolling through carefully curated and scripted photos on Instagram. My online life is a huge part of my interaction with others, working from home I’ve often called Twitter “my water cooler moment”, so I struggle with the concept of a “detox”. Instead I try to build time online into my day, I try to avoid constantly picking up my phone to read emails or look at Instagram. In fact, I quite often turn off the wifi on my phone and switch off my tablet for a few hours each day so I can work on designs or write undisturbed.
After tea I try to put my “devices” away, switch off the laptop and have real conversations. We’ll settle down to read books, watch a box set or spend time with friends and at these times “device checking” is frowned upon. Of course we break the rules, I might spend half an hour having a Facebook chat with a far away friend or Mr T might check out what his friends are up to on Strava. But we follow a few unspoken “rules”, no device checking at mealtimes, no jumping up to answer the phone in the middle of a conversation and the only electronic device in the bedroom is my kindle. And here’s the thing, iplayer has given us so much freedom to choose what we watch and when that I forget what life was like when you had to timetable TV watching into your day so you didn’t miss call the Midwife! Our smart TV has given us freedom and flexibility. It is “good” technology and I won’t hear a bad word said against it!
Today I went for a walk, my phone was in my pocket but it was switched off and I relished being “uncontactable”. We’re not a technology driven family; if we want to turn down the thermostat we get up and turn a knob, we don’t reach for an app on a phone. We don’t have sat nav – we are “old school” and carry maps. Technology allows Mr T to work from home, he spends his day on Skype calls, sharing screens and logging into client databases. No wonder he’s happy to leave technology behind after a day in the office (aka the smallest bedroom). The internet allows me to sell my patterns, research ideas and keep in touch with fellow designers, editors and friends who live to far away to drop in for a cuppa. Technology is an aid to efficiency, but it can also make us slaves.
Of course technology is not just about being “connected”. Try making a loaf of bread by hand instead of throwing everything in a bread maker, whip egg whites for a meringue by hand or make pastry. Take a map when you go for a walk instead of plugging routes into a GPS. Look up from your screen, look out of the window and talk to a real person not a Gravatar once in a while. Read your toddler a story from a book instead of passing them your ipad. Build a den under the dining table, make time to talk and to listen no matter how bored you are with reading the Very Hungry Caterpillar or singing the same song over and over again. The greatest gift you can give to your loved ones is time and technology can suck that away from us if we’re not careful. I know this because my own daughter spent far too many hours watching Barney and playing Sims while I attempted to “work from home” in her early years (and yes, I still carry the guilt of the working Mother). I thought technology would make me more efficient, more productive. It just made me a slave to my inbox.
How do you balance life and technology? Do you use an app to switch on your kettle / turn on the lights? Do you find yourself checking Facebook during ad breaks? I’m fascinated by how we all adapt and respond to the growing technologies that promise to make our lives easier and more efficient. Do they? I’d love to know how you find a tech life balance – maybe you already have the answer?
*griege – those slightly grey / sepia / muted images that are so common on Instagram. Read “everything you need to know about griege” here.